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Batman: Arkham Origins

Score: 85%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Warner Bros. Games Montréal
Media: Download/1
Players: 1; 2 - 8 (Online)
Genre: Action/ Stealth/ Free-Roaming

Graphics & Sound:

Batman: Arkham City is not an act anyone wants to follow. Rocksteady Games' engrossing, shocking tribute to the Dark Knight is one of the finest games ever made, and so is Arkham Asylum, the title that preceded it. With Rocksteady out of the spotlight, it's up to the newly christened Warner Bros. Games Montréal to steward this already strong franchise through the end of its infancy. Despite being a thoroughly familiar game, Batman: Arkham Origins is still absolutely worthy of the franchise.

Gotham City is ugly in body and in soul. Batman's utter devotion to this diseased metropolis may confuse some, but Arkham Origins delivers a fine-looking virtual recreation of this hive of moral rot. While there may not be as many sights to see as there are in Arkham City's eponymous superprison, it looks less like a tour and more like an actual city. My only gripe is that literally everyone walking the streets of Gotham is a thug or a cop. This was understandable in the last two games, but this is Gotham City proper -- on Christmas Eve, no less. Are we really supposed to believe that literally everyone is too scared to leave their houses? Between the cutscenes and the action, Arkham Origins is par for the course, visually. The combat system gives Batman agility and speed that looks impossible, but it's still a joy to watch. And equally compelling is each character's appearance, which is appropriately young.

With Kevin Conroy temporarily out of the picture and Mark Hamill permanently out of the picture, it's up to Roger Craig Smith and Troy Baker to fill the shoes of the Dark Knight and the Clown Prince of Crime. It's my pleasure to announce that both actors are more than capable of the task: Roger Craig Smith's Bruce Wayne speaks with nerve-shattering menace, a notable departure from the dulcet tones of Kevin Conroy. But it makes sense: here we are seeing a Batman that is incredibly angry and equally unsure of himself. Troy Baker, who has had possibly the best year of his career, caps it off by doing justice to one of the greatest comic book villains of all time. He doesn't make it entirely his own, and he seems afraid to let loose with the Joker's trademark maniacal laugh, but he's definitely up to the job.


It's Christmas Eve in Gotham. Batman has been around for two years. The legends have yet to concretize, and as a result, the Dark Knight's reputation is not a good one. With rumors swirling around that he's a murdering psychopath, Bruce Wayne's alter ego has quite a bit to prove. Well, it turns out that this is the night where he does so. Gotham crime lord Roman Sionis (known and feared as "Black Mask") orchestrates a violent breakout from Blackgate and puts a $50 million bounty on Batman's head. Before long, our hero learns that the world's deadliest assassins have come to Gotham to earn their keep...

Batman: Arkham Origins follows the template established by Arkham City: as Batman, you traverse Gotham, beating bad guys senseless, solving crimes, and surviving the impending assassination attempts over the course of one agonizingly cold and excruciatingly endless night. There's lots to do in the city, much like in the previous games, though not all of it is as exciting as it was in those games. However, most of the game's most original thrills come in the form of seeing the Gotham of yesteryear. James Gordon is merely a Captain, and he really doesn't like Batman. His daughter Barbara is little more than a geeky fangirl (who still has the use of her legs). A faceless wizard who goes by the name of Enigma has a devious plan to extort a series of high-profile individuals. And then we get to the matter of the flaky psychoanalyst Harleen Quinzel... Perhaps my favorite treatment in this game is that of Alfred, Bruce's surrogate father. Alfred is and has always been Bruce Wayne's greatest friend and ally, and it's nice to see that friendship explored as deeply as it is in this game. And then, of course, there are the assassins, most of which make their first appearance in an Arkham game.

Batman: Arkham Origins marks a first for the series in that it dabbles in its own multiplayer component. Two individuals are cast as Batman and Robin, while the other six assume the role of henchmen hired by either the Joker or Bane. The job of the henchmen is to kill the other henchmen, while the heroes' job is to take the criminals out. I absolutely love asymmetrical multiplayer action; Splinter Cell: Blacklist being perhaps the apotheosis of it for me. While the idea is excellent on paper, it just doesn't work all that well in Arkham Origins. The heroes feels underpowered and the criminals control poorly. While I understand the need for balance in these kinds of experiences, that's just a major no-no when it comes to a universe like Batman's.


Batman: Arkham Origins is perhaps more difficult for those who have already played the previous two games in the series. Certain parts of the gameplay feel subtly different: combat feels a bit slower and more deliberate, and the grace period for counterattacks feels substantially shorter. But with time, it feels like the same classic gameplay, whether it's the brutal, bone-crunching combat or the excellent, empowering stealth sections.

Combat mechanics are temporarily turned on their heads in the mid-game boss fight against Deathstroke. It's an excellent boss fight once you figure out how it works, but until you do, it just feels broken. The opportunities for counterattacks generally show themselves with a very identifiable icon that pops up over an enemy's head. This doesn't happen in the Deathstroke boss fight. Rather, you are placed into a cutscene where you must wait for a specific moment where something more akin to a quick time event shows up on screen. This will confuse and frustrate most gamers who have experience (and therefore, expectations) with the series, though it might not be too much of a problem for newcomers.

Game Mechanics:

If you're familiar at all with the mechanics of either Arkham Asylum or Arkham City, Batman: Arkham Origins will be light on surprises for you. The controls were just about perfect in Arkham City, so there was no point in going back and messing with anything. The classic freeflow combat returns mostly unchanged, and the exhilarating locomotion mechanics (grapple, glide, dive, repeat) are as intoxicatingly fun as ever.

You start the game with most of the gadgets you had by the end of Arkham City: the grappling hook, explosive gel, the cryptographic sequencer, and the classic batarang to name a few. However, you've got a new trick in the form of fast travel. The Batwing patrols the skies above, and once you liberate a section of Gotham from Enigma's radio towers, you can call in for a quick pickup.

One thing that has changed is Batman's crime-solving hardware. When he comes across a crime scene, he is able to pinpoint areas of interest and rebuild the event in virtual reality. It's a neat concept that kind of hearkens back to the memory remixing system from Remember Me, but I wish there was more of it and that it provided more in the way of actual challenge. Finding new clues in different areas of the crime scene or being led away to find something else (a briefcase that fell off of a building, etc.) were more the exception than the rule. It's kind of a missed opportunity that I'd like to see expanded on in future games.

Batman: Arkham Origins may be getting more than its fair share of grief for not being as revolutionary as the two games that preceded it. That being said, I confess to being one of those fans who would have simply accepted "just another Batman game." I was completely satisfied with the ride Arkham Origins took me on, and I suspect the same will be true to most gamers, as well.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

Minimum System Requirements:

32-bit: Vista, Win 7, Win 8; Intel Core 2 Duo, 2.4 GHz/AMD Athlon X2, 2.8 GHz; 2GB RAM; NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTS/AMD Radeon HD 3850 or better wit 512 MB of VRAM; DirectX 9.0c; 20GB HDD Space, Broadband Internet Connection

Test System:

ASUS G74S Series, Intel Core I7 - 2670QM, 2.2 GHz, Windows 7 Premium, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 560M, 12 GB RAM

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